Brand Misrepresentation of your brand online can be extremely detrimental and costly, and many business owners have discovered that it can be extremely difficult to get the fraudulent/phished site removed from Google’s index and the web. If another company is using your brand name in their domain, meta content, social profiles, or is in any other way acting as your company online, there are a few steps you can take to help Google, the site’s host, and even the FTC become aware of the fraudulent or spam site. It should be noted that brand misrepresentation is a serious offense and should not be handled lightly. Do your homework and consult with a legal professional if necessary.
But First, Legal Stuff:
This post and the contents therein are by no means professional legal advice. There is no guarantee any of the steps below will be effective against fraudulent sites. The content on this site is offered only as a public service to the web community and does not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. This site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter. The comments and opinions expressed on this site are of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.
Step 0.5: Evidence Collection
Scour the web for any and all evidence of the brand misrepresentation. Get in the habit of taking screenshots of the misrepresentation on social media, the SERPs, websites, advertisements, etc. Save evidence of all communication with the fraudulent brand. This evidence may come in handy later on!
Step 1: Manual Outreach
Step 2: Report to Google
The first step to take in reporting the fraudulent site is to report it to Google. First, take screenshots of the brand misrepresentation anywhere it occurs. This can include meta titles and descriptions, ads, social media profiles, blogs, etc. Next, report the fraudulent/spam site to Google. To report site found through Google Search, visit https://www.google.com/safebrowsing/report_phish/ and fill out the form.
Step 3: Report to ICCC and FTC
Should you chose to escalate the issue further, you can report the site to Internet Crime Complaint Center and the FTC. This is where you may need to provide tangible evidence of the misrepresentation/spam.
From Google Support FAQ: I’ve been scammed. What should I do?
You may wish to file a report with the appropriate authorities and/or your regional fraud reporting center — such as the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov)
You may also contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/contact, call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to the following address:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
If your complaint is against a company in a country other than the United States, you can file it at http://www.econsumer.gov/. You can also find information on where to report in locations outside the United States at econsumer.gov.
Step 4: Reach Out To The Host
Step 5: Legal Action
If the steps above are unsuccessful, you will likely need to take legal action to have the fraudulent company’s website taken down. Contact your legal team for more info.
More Helpful Info:
Business Identity Theft Protection Guide (scroll to “Protect Your Business’ Online and Public Presence”)
Good luck out there!